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DECEMBER 15, 1997: 

Home Alone 3

Four criminal masterminds working for North Korean terrorists try to recover a microchip that would allow missiles to fly undetected by radar. Doesn't sound like the new Home Alone movie, does it? The ridiculous premise takes a turn for the predictable when the chip falls into the hands of eight-year-old Alex (a surprisingly cute Alex D. Linz), who's home alone with chicken pox. After a first half whose only point is to set up the final showdown, Alex thwarts the inevitable break-in with the standard Rube Goldberg array of pulleys, weights, and high-voltage electrical current.

Once the invasion begins, it's the original Home Alone all over again, except that the bungling burglars have been replaced by highly trained professionals. "We didn't anticipate the defense the boy would mount," the chief bad guy mutters at one point. Despite a few obnoxiously cute moments, Linz takes the reins nicely from a suddenly pubescent Macaulay Culkin. A few small plot twists strive to distinguish this film from its predecessors, but it's basically the same shtick with a different eight-year-old. -- Dan Tobin


Harvey

Seeing is believing when it comes to this 1950 Jimmy Stewart vehicle, which was adapted from Mary Chase's 1944 Pulitzer-winning play (it beat out The Glass Menagerie) about a lovable lush and his best friend, an invisible 6'3" rabbit. No, we never actually see Harvey (though we get a glimpse of his customized fedora, which has holes cut in the crown for his ears), but we do see his effect on Stewart's Elwood P. Dowd. Because Elwood believes in Harvey -- who's unfailingly thoughtful and generous -- he believes in everyone else. He goes up to strangers in bars, makes friends, buys rounds of drinks -- all because Harvey insists. (And before you write Harvey off as a product of Elwood's besotted imagination, consider that though Elwood is constantly ordering drinks, we never see him actually touch the stuff.) Harvey is everything Elwood wants to be; he gives Elwood the courage to make himself over in Harvey's image. By the end, Elwood and Harvey are rubbing off on those around them -- everyone starts to get kinder, gentler.

Even if you don't believe in Harvey, it would be hard not to believe in Jimmy Stewart -- which is just as well, since I don't know what other actor could have made Elwood work. Harvey, of course, gives a flawless performance; he seems to have a lucky rabbit's foot. But Elwood has to make good on the advice his mother gave him: "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Elwood's response: "For years I was smart; I recommend pleasant." Stewart has the face of a man who's earned the right to be both. His Elwood is always one step ahead of Elwood's sister, Veta Louise (Josephine Hull), and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne), who are hoping to get Elwood confined in the local asylum because his relationship with Harvey is putting a crimp in Myrtle Mae's marriage prospects. This aspect of the movie's sensibility has, post-King of Hearts and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, dated badly: Chase's broad, broad parody of psychiatry finds the asylum (hilariously represented by Cecil Kellaway, Charles Drake, and a pre-Maytag Jesse White) ready to commit respectable citizens at the drop of a hat. But Stewart and his bunny buddy turn Harvey into 14-carrot gold. -- Jeffrey Gantz


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